3,000 disadvantaged kids to get free coding lessons from Google


GOOGLE sees a "tremendous opportunity" to grow its business in Singapore and to showcase the city-state as a centre for innovation, according to a top official of the California-based tech giant.

Speaking to The Business Times, Caesar Sengupta, Google's vice-president for the Next Billion Users team, added that this was one of the reasons the company had set up a new engineering group here earlier this year to lead product development for the region.

"We're not only creating products for Asia and the world, but we're also committed to helping Singapore nurture the next generation of tech innovators," Mr Sengupta said.

Highlighting some of the initiatives being taken by Google, Mr Sengupta announced on Thursday it is bringing Code in the Community to 3,000 young Singaporeans from less well-to-do backgrounds.

"It's a multi-year, multi-level computer science and computational thinking course to get even more Singaporean kids excited about the potential of technology," he added.

The company is partnering Singapore's four ethnic self-help groups - the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Singapore Indian Development Association, The Eurasian Association and Yayasan Mendaki - to hold weekend classes for children aged between eight and 15 years, with an equal mix of boys and girls.

The programme, which starts in January 2017, will be run by charities, 21C Girls and Saturday Kids, at four community centres around the island for three years.

"Google's support for Code in the Community is made possible through our Data Centre Community Grants and RISE Awards programmes. We will share more details when sign-ups open next month," Mr Sengupta added.

Explaining Google's increased involvement with Singapore and this region, he noted that this coincides with the "tremendous growth we're seeing in this part of the world".

He noted that South-east Asia is the world's fastest-growing Internet region and is expected to grow to more than US$200 billion by 2025.

"In a Google-Temasek report we released earlier this year, we projected that 3.8 million people are coming online every month, and SEA (South-east Asia) will grow from 260 million Internet users in 2015 to 480 million by 2020," he said. "Singapore is close to many of our next billion users coming online, so as our regional headquarters, it's an important location from which we focus on those users' needs."

He noted that over the past year, Google has reached out to more than 900 businesses through free workshops aimed at helping small and medium enterprises optimise their business plans for export, as well as their online marketing and advertising campaigns. "We've also provided high-touch digital marketing support and advice to over 100 SMEs with our marketing consultants identifying opportunities that include creating mobile-friendly websites, converting basic websites into e-commerce portals, building new apps or leveraging YouTube video ads."

He noted that Google Cloud offers a number of services to enterprises, including infrastructure, business applications, and hardware and customer support with an emphasis on technical expertise.

"We've seen great adoption already with a number of major brands as well as a large developer community using our services in various combinations to increase productivity and digitise their operations," he said. "Businesses of all sizes and industries are deploying G Suite, our suite of collaborative business applications built to help teams work better together paired with our Chrome and Android hardware for employee desktops, mobile devices and video conference systems."

Mr Sengupta noted that local online marketplace Carousell recently moved to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to support its growing global business. "After comparing top providers, Carousell chose GCP for its unparalleled performance and network that would support their expansion to new markets. They've also taken advantage of having access to higher-level services for data analysis."

Giving another example, he noted that Qlipp, a Singapore startup that has developed a tennis sensor app helping players improve their performance, used Google's help to increase its profile globally and reach new consumers.

"Video campaigns on YouTube helped increase their brand awareness, and when they combined search and video marketing with their sponsorship of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, they saw a 10-fold increase in their Web traffic and a 30 per cent increase in sales," Mr Sengupta said.

The Google official noted that the company has doubled its headcount here since 2013 and Singapore is its fastest-growing office in Asia.

"Most of our Asia-Pacific senior management team is based out of Singapore, with a wide variety for functions ranging from engineering to sales, partnerships, finance, marketing and operations," he said. "Singapore is a major priority for us and we are very supportive of Singapore's efforts to become a Smart Nation."